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Kate Rhoades : Artist You Should Know

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The “Artist You Should Know” series highlights Bay Area artists who are doing incredible work, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep the bay a strange and wonderful place. 

A series of experimental seminars with Kate Rhoades & Eli Thorne

If you’ve taken a bus lately you may have seen Kate’s work, she’s got a delightful series of SF themed comics on MUNI bus stops along market st.  But even if you haven’t seen Kate’s work, there’s an excellent chance that your child has.  Actually, there’s a very, very good chance that your 3-year-old is hella down with Kate’s work already.  You see, Kate made a youtube video that went viral this Spring, and it currently has +64 Million views and counting. That’s Taylor Swift level numbers.

Our crack team of mathematicians at (which consists of myself, with an iPhone calculator app. in my underwear) crunched the numbers and realized that since there are only about 20 million children aged 0-4 in the entire USA, every one of them had to have watched this video at least 3 times.  Maybe the weirdest part about this whole phenomenon is that Kate made the video as kind of a joke, she just followed a specific formula of SEO keywords, along with a super popular child’s song, and voila!  Viral Sing-along Video.

Meanwhile, we asked Kate about lots of interesting stuff…so meet Kate Rhoades, an artist you should know.

Name:  Kate Rhoades

Videos, paintings, comics, performances, podcasts, etc.

(BAS) How does it feel to be an international pop star? Who wrote the music/sang with you on Finger Family Song? Will you go on tour? Will you start making children’s programming full time?

(KR) I have no idea who sings that version of the finger family song- it’s in thousands of videos. However, my more recent kids’ videos feature original music by my very talented musician friend, David Mohr. I will definitely not go on tour! I would terrify the children! I don’t have plans to go into toddler videos full time, but I will definitely make more of them every once in a while hoping to hit pay dirt again.  (Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED did a great interview w/ Kate on this subject).

When did you arrive in the Bay Area? 

I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Oakland since 2012 when I came here to go to grad school at Mills College.

What was your first job in Bay Area?

My first official job in the Bay Area was as an assistant registrar at the Mills College Art Museum. My first job in San Francisco was as a teaching artist at Southern Exposure. Well, before that I helped my friend, Dave Kim paint the logo on the wall in the Boba Guys shop in the mission. 

I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school!

Hahahaha I’m definitely not sophisticated, but I have an MFA from Mills College. I also teach college classes, so I can’t credibly say FUCK art school anymore even though I think higher education is fucked up in countless ways. 

How did you come about putting your comic strip series on bus stops in SF?  And where can you see them?

The San Francisco Arts Commission takes proposals (I think once a year) for their Market Street Bus Kiosk series. Any Bay Area artists can submit their work to the commission and if they pick you then you get your posters up in those bus stops for about three months. Mine are on view on Market St. from Embarcadero to Eighth street until the end of July.

What’s it like doing a big public project like that? And how many millions of dollars did the sf arts commission pay you?

They paid me $10,000 which felt like millions to me! It was a pretty low-stress job because you just send them the print files and they handle all the printing. The only stressful parts of it were presenting my idea to the selection panel and then later when the posters go get approved by the whole arts commission. They didn’t ask me to change anything, so that was a relief. Shout out to Craig and Zoë at the SFAC! It was a great experience and I would encourage any Bay Area artists to apply for it.

(Go to for more info, 2019 is closed but 2020 is just around the corner ; )

What was it like being a Recology Artist in Residence and making videos of trash monsters?

Recology was great! I was there back in the spring of 2016. The staff there are incredibly supportive. I became friends with Weston Teruya, the other artist in residence at the time who I will love and cherish until my dying day. I would full-throatedly recommend that all Bay Area artists apply for that residency. You get a huge studio and all the most bizarre art supplies you can scavenge out of the recycling, and then you have a show at the end. Making my video project, Karen while I was there was very intense. It was the most ambitious project I’d ever done. It’s a 20-minute saga about debt and addiction all told through puppets made of garbage and I cried a lot thinking I wasn’t going to get it done in time for the opening. My girlfriend, Katy made me promise never to get that nuts over a project again, and I don’t think I have. You might need to ask her for the real truth on that front, though.

Any SF artists you think are particularly outstanding right now?

Craig Calderwood is straight up my favorite artist in the Bay Area. I could look at her hypnotically detailed drawings and paintings for a thousand hours. Check out her work immediately:


What’s the coolest gallery right now?

I always have to rep for Royal Nonesuch Gallery, because after I had a show there they never made me give my key back and now I use their bathroom whenever I’m near their building. Of course they also show excellent work, but the bathroom thing really puts them in a league of their own.

Favorite street art right now?

The paste-ups in the Mission on Valencia St. and outside of Red Poppy Art House memorializing René Yañez are my favorite public art to see when I’m walking around San Francisco.

What does it take to make it as an artist in SF these days?

I think we answer this question in many ways on the show I co-host with Maysoun Wazwaz: Congratulations Pine Tree (The Bay’s #1 Arts and Culture Podcast) so check that out if you’re figuring out how to be an artist in the Bay Area. 

Nia Wilson also has an excellent podcast called We Want the Airwaves where queer and trans artists of color talk about making ends meet mostly in the Bay Area: 

Other than that- I would say to all the transplant artists like me: listen to the people who have been here longer than you.

You seem to love SF history, how do you think SF has changed over the years?

I think when you look back at the industrialists of the early 1900s who used their unbelievable wealth to control politicians and diminish the power of the working class, maybe not that much has really changed in the Bay Area in the last hundred years after all? I strongly encourage anybody interested in local history to read the work of historian, Chris Carlsson.  Chris also runs an online archive of San Francisco history. FoundSF was a great resource for my poster project along with my mom who grew up in the South Bay and is an excellent storyteller. 

What’s coming up for you?

Right now I’m working on a project about the assassination of President William McKinley for a show I’ll be having in Buffalo, NY next summer. The first part of the project is a comic book, which goes into the life of the assassin, Leon Czolgosz and his anarchist hero, Emma Goldman. I was supposed to have the comic done this week but it kind of got away from me and now there are three pages just about syphilis. I’m sure people out there are clamoring for syphilis illustrations, so they should check out my website for updates: 

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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